So when the discovery of human remains there made headlines on Wednesday, it was hardly news to people who have lived with the rumors for years.
“I was relieved that they found the body,” said former Piedmont Mayor James Bennett, who owns the land the body was found on. “But I wasn’t surprised that somebody could have been there.”
People have guessed that a body might be buried beneath Alabama 21, which runs past the brickyard. They have wondered whether a body rests at the bottom of a pond nearby. And they’ve thought human remains might rest in a shallow grave someplace on the hillside.
Bennett said he owns 125 acres there, including the old brickyard. He said he’s been in touch with investigators as they’ve searched his property for remains.
The thought of someone being buried on his property has nagged at Bennett since the early 1990s when Jeff McFry and Patrick Burrows went missing.
“I think about it a good bit,” Bennett said.
Wednesday wasn’t the first time investigators have searched the property. Joey Lively, of Lively’s Foodland downtown, lives near the brickyard and said investigators have dug for bodies in the area at least once before.
“It kind of makes me feel strange,” Lively said.
Lively said his property is adjacent to the land where the body was found, but he didn’t find out about the discovery until he went into work. He said rumors about the discovery circulated in his family’s store throughout the day.
Many people in Piedmont on Wednesday said they found out about the discovery not through news outlets, but from friends, from neighbors, or in Lively’s case, through customers.
Many said the discovery was all but expected, many said they were waiting to find out who the remains belonged to, and almost all said they hoped the discovery would bring peace to at least one area family.
“If this is one of the bodies that has been missing, it would bring relief to a family,” said Marty Lively, Joey Lively’s brother and co-worker.
McFry’s and Burrows’ disappearances have long been thought to be connected to David Ronald Chandler. Chandler was convicted in 1991 of being involved in the killing of another man for reasons related to Chandler’s illicit marijuana farming. The disappearance in 1997 of Karen Steed, whose home was near the spot where investigators searched for evidence on Wednesday, also is thought to be connected to Chandler. Carla Fuqua, another missing woman, was last seen in Piedmont in October 2009; her disappearance has not been linked to Chandler. Authorities said they believe the remains found this week may belong to one of those four people.
But perhaps because of Chandler’s reputation, or perhaps just out of a reluctance to talk about such distressing events, many people in Piedmont on Wednesday didn’t want to talk about the case.
Lively, like many in town, knew at least one of the four missing people. He said the discovery almost immediately stirred up old questions about the lost.
“I was wondering if it was somebody they’ve been looking for for ages,” Lively said.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.